Taboo-breaking pop art: 'Women in Pakistan aren't as docile as people imagine them to be'

Karachi illustrator Samya Arif's work fights back against the stigmas faced by Pakistani women, instead portraying the real life experiences we often don't see.

'We don’t have to be taking shit from other people in society. We can say and do what we want'

Karachi illustrator Samya Arif's work fights back against the stigmas faced by Pakistani women, instead portraying the real life experiences we often don't see. 1:28

Karachi illustrator Samya Arif is at the forefront of Karachi's budding illustration scene. Samya's work for The Herald, a prominent Pakistani magazine, has tackled sociopolitical issues in the country — including the infiltration of ISIS, the Army presence in the country and, more than anything else, women. 

"Women are something that I've always been exploring in all my work. I definitely want to portray women strong."

Arif wants to push boundaries by being honest about the real life experiences of Pakistani women that are often not portrayed.

(Samya Arif)

"I feel like it was time for me to bring forward what I feel about my personal experiences as a woman in Pakistan. We don't have to be taking shit from other people in society. We can say and do what we want."

In the west if someone saw that image of me, people wouldn't think twice about it, but over here they'll be like, 'Oh, she's a fast girl.'- Karachi Illustrator Samya Arif

Her illustration "Fast Girls" based on a photograph of her smoking a cigar challenges how easily women in Pakistan can be stigmatized. "It's very easy here to taint a girl's reputation for something as small as smoking a cigar."

"In the west if someone saw that image of me, people wouldn't think twice about it, but over here they'll be like, 'Oh, she's a fast girl.'"

(Samya Arif)

See more of Samya Arif's vibrant work on her website and see her story and the stories of other artists creating in the face of terror in Interrupt This Program: Karachi this Friday, November 10th at 8:30pm on CBC TV and online.

Art as political protest, as a means of survival, as an agent of change, as a display of courage and delight. Interrupt This Program explores art in cities under pressure. Watch episodes from Mexico City, Jakarta, Nairobi, Chicago and more now.

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